Subjects; Greens political party; Grayndler electorate; Perth Metronet; Coalition’s budget black hole; foreign aid.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: As promised, we are joined now by Anthony Albanese. Thanks very much for your company.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you. I’m here in Parliament House; I just did a Property Council Round Table lunch in the Great Hall.
VAN ONSELEN: Shouldn’t you be campaigning in your local electorate, fending off this challenge from the Greens? Which, by the way, would be an absolute disgrace if they found a way to win your seat. Within the cohort of Labor MPs, if there is a Labor MP that the Greens should want in the Labor Party, you would have to be one of them. I don’t mean that disparagingly, I mean it as a compliment.
ALBANESE: I am out there fighting for the defeat of the Turnbull Government. Meanwhile it would appear the Greens political party’s priority is defeating me. They can answer to their own voters about why that’s their priority. That’s one of the reasons why I am confident, but not complacent, I will receive support on the 2nd of July.
VAN ONSELEN: Just quickly, on your seat, before we move into portfolio issues and so on. How much harder is your seat for you demographically with the redistribution? You chose to stay in the same seat and fight it. Is it a more difficult seat now than it was, say, at the last election according to what the statisticians tell us?
ALBANESE: Look, it’s a lot tougher and all you have to do is drive around to know that is the case. I’ve lost Tempe, Canterbury, the south part of Dulwich Hill; and the south part of Marrickville where I live, have been redistributed into Barton. Ashbury has gone into Watson, Ashfield has gone a bit into Watson and a bit into Reid.
So I’ve lost essentially my ten strongest electoral booths for the Labor Party. They’ve gone. In return I have got Green heartland where there is a Greens State Member in Balmain as well as a Greens States Member in Newtown. On the State figures, I don’t go close to being elected. But I chose to do the right thing by the Labor Party and to run for Grayndler because I don’t want to just be in Parliament, I want to be in Parliament as a member of a Labor Government.
Clearly it maximised the chances of us winning the seat by myself recontesting; given I have been there awhile, I’ve lived in the Inner West all my life, I’ve connected up with the local community and I think I’ve got a record of which I’m very proud. I’ve been prepared to stand up and take tough decisions. Even people who don’t agree with me –
VAN ONSELEN: On that front, the people who don’t always agree with you, the Daily Telegraph: they could hardly have been more glowing in their support. Splashing across their front page ‘Save Our Albo’. So you’re getting support in all different directions.
ALBANESE: I am indeed. I have people who say to me ‘I normally vote Liberal, but this time I am voting for you’. I have people who normally vote Green, and indeed at least a couple of members of the Greens Party, have said to me they’ll be voting for me rather their own candidate because they think I play an important role in the Parliament.
They’d like to see Greens elected in the Senate and in perhaps other seats but they don’t want to see me not be elected. It’s pretty important to them Adam Bandt has someone to talk to during Question Time but it doesn’t actually change anything in terms of policies for the Government.
I’m pointing out issues that are practical and important for the electorate, like aircraft noise and building a second airport for Sydney – so we have those jobs and economic activity around Badgerys Creek. The Greens say they want Kingsford Smith Airport shut down, they want no airport at Badgerys Creek. But I don’t know how you get in and out of a global city like Sydney if it has no aviation.
KRISTINA KENEALLY: Obviously there will be no Greens taking overseas holidays any time soon if that policy comes to fruition.
VAN ONSELEN: Only their au pairs who are coming to look after the kids.
KENEALLY: Anthony, we do want to ask you about a press conference held earlier. Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann claiming Labor had spent $67 billion above and beyond what’s already in the Budget. That you’ve got a big black hole in your policies. Your response to that press conference today?
ALBANESE: Well, there’s a big back hole in the credibility of the Coalition here. I just went around the press gallery here in Parliament House and frankly Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann are being laughed at. This is farcical.
They’ve said things like – just to give one example – because of something someone said to someone behind a school classroom one day, there is $20 billion additional when it comes to foreign aid. They know that that is not the case. We released our policy on the weekend with Tanya Plibersek and Matt Thistlethwaite.
Less than five per cent of what they say will actually be the cost of that. We want to increase foreign aid but over a period of time. We recognise you just can’t reverse all the circumstances overnight. We’ve been extraordinarily responsible. If you look just at the Budget and the Budget Reply, there’s $100 billion difference between Labor and the Coalition. We will stop the big business tax cut, where they are trying to define small business as being businesses that have a turnover of up to a billion dollars, rather than $2 million which is the existing definition. We will oppose that.
We’ll have our measure on capital gains tax and negative gearing we have put out there for the public to see. Full scrutiny about that, fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office, and of course, also, we will have the deficit levy that was put on when the deficit was one third of what it is now. This mob has tripled the deficit, but now they want to get rid of the levy that will result in a tax cut, if you’re earning a million dollars a year, of some $17,000.
We have made those decisions, unlike previous oppositions of various political colours. We have, before we have committed any expenditure, had the savings there. Just yesterday we announced a billion dollars for the Perth Metronet, an exciting upgrade of Perth’s public transport system we want to do in partnership with what will be the incoming WA Labor Government under Mark McGowan.
Now, we didn’t just say we’ll just do that, we said where the money was coming from because we won’t proceed with the Perth Freight Link project we think is ill designed, unadvised, won’t achieve any objectives and has been knocked over in the courts. We’ve been very fiscally responsible.
KENEALLY: Peter and I did notice the announcement yesterday, the Metronet announcement. We also noticed the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport wasn’t standing there in WA. Should we read anything into that?
ALBANESE: Just that I am not omnipresent Kristina.
KENEALLY: Just omniscient.
ALBANESE: In terms of yesterday morning, I was on the Sunshine Coast campaigning on the Bruce Highway, and of course last night I had Q&A to do live with Christopher Pyne. So I didn’t have a capacity, frankly, to get to Perth and back for that announcement.
I was with Bill for two announcements in Sydney, including a project you’d be very familiar, Kristina, with your former hat on, the upgrade of the Port Botany rail freight system.
We were there with Matt Thistlethwaite at the Port announcing that, and then we were in Western Sydney later that day announcing the $50 million upgrade of the Appin Road. Something the Government went in and pretended that it was new, and no one else had thought of it. Unfortunately they did it a day or two after we’d already made that announcement.
VAN ONSELEN: Just one final question before we run out of time, if I can, Anthony Albanese. This target of 0.5% going to foreign aid, there’s a lot being made out of this – in terms of the black home – by Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann at their media conference. If Labor has moved away from that, at what point of time in the future do you think Labor will aim as the year moment in time, to hit that 0.5% target?
ALBANESE: That’s a matter for Tanya Plibersek and Matt Thistlethwaite, who in terms of their portfolio, they will take responsibility for that. We believe in foreign aid. We oppose the very recent cuts that were made to foreign aid. We think it is important in terms of our responsibility.
The big thing that is of concern to me, when it comes to foreign aid, is that I was talking to someone just yesterday, in Queensland, who indicated there had been this survey done by one of the universities up there. They’ve gone and asked people how much they thought Australia contributed to foreign aid now. The average was almost 10%. So this sort of scare campaign about what is a very modest contribution Australia makes, that is in our economic interest and it’s in our national security interests of course, as well.
Foreign aid for things like schools in Indonesia help make sure you don’t have some of the fundamentalist forms of education that lead to real issues, not just for Indonesia but for us in the region. So foreign aid can be a very important thing for us. Our contribution is very minimal. For Scott Morrison and Matthias Cormann to be out there making figures up about increases in foreign aid, frankly does them no credit at all.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.